“Blu-ray or Bust”
HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016, R, 122 minutes, LIONSGATE/ODDLOT ENTERTAINMENT)
Chris Pine has been making a statement for the last few years.
After un-Shatnering James T. Kirk in the latest STAR TREK films, his performances in-between have proven him to be a versatile and rather fearless actor. In 2014’s uncredited role in STRETCH, Pine (literally) lets it all hang out, showing that he had the comedic chops to match his action-star skills.
Now, with HELL, he pretty much acts his ass off.
Directed by David Mackenzie (PERFECT SENSE) and written by Taylor Sheridan, the brilliant brain behind SICARIO, HELL is a story about brothers—two by blood, two by partnership. The dynamics of these relationships is what makes this one of the best character study/Texas crime thrillers since the Cohen Brothers gave us NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. And while there may seem to be some similarities between the two films, there is no comparison when it comes to the story, the life lessons, and the individually brilliant performances on display here.
Jeff Bridges is the acidic, thoughtful Texas Ranger who, with his partner (played by the patient, quiet, and wonderful master of body language Gil Birmingham of the TWILIGHT “films”), chase down two bank-robbing brothers who seem to be hell-bent on robbing every branch of Texas Midlands Bank that they can. It is the story behind each character that fascinates; what each one is willing to do or sacrifice for the other is as touching as it can be under the sometimes violent circumstances. Playing “Tanner” to Pine’s Toby is the versatile Ben Foster (WARCRAFT, LONE SURVIVOR). He gives a performance which runs much deeper than his outward toughness reveals; the connection between the brothers is obvious. These are roles no other actors could have pulled off the way this ensemble does, so don’t be surprised if you see a few nominations for these well-deserving players.
At times, you might wonder about the underlying story being a bit heavy-handed with the visuals. From houses for sale to debt relief billboards on the side of the various roads, poverty seems to be an overbearing, unspoken character which drives every person in this movie to their destinies.
There are enough special features to answer any questions you may have. From a look behind the characters and their relationships to set locations, you are not left wanting for more. And to truly appreciate the desolation and desperation of these locales (not to mention the characters), the Blu-ray format is a must.
In a film that showcases realistic performances and situations, you should also cast a loving eye to the ‘Angriest Waitress in the World’, Margaret Bowman. You may or may not recall her from a myriad of television performances, but you most certainly will remember her from HELL. That’s the trick of this film; just when you think you are watching actors at the top of their game, Mackenzie throws in a performance so natural, so wonderfully eccentric, that you wonder if you are watching a movie or real lives unfold.
There are too many little moments that turn this film into a lifelike sketch of the real world and its daily problems to describe here. Do yourself a favor, and go discover them for yourself.
Film Grade: A
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely